SEPTEMBER 1, 2010
I knew Deepstar Six and Leviathan were both underwater Alien ripoffs from 1989, but I wasn't aware how similar the two were until today, when I finally got around to seeing the former film (my Leviathan review, which promises a look at Deepstar, is well over a year old). Both films feature blue collar casts instead of a bunch of hardasses, both sport Robocop stars (Peter Weller there, Miguel Ferrer here), hell even the climax is identical, with our survivors rising to the surface only for the monster to suddenly take a personal vendetta against them and stick around to try to kill them instead of just swimming away. Christ, they're even the same length!
And yet it's actually worse, if my memory is correct. At least Leviathan had a good cast and minor attempts at giving these folks an identity, whereas Deepstar boasts Matt McCoy and the guy who played the cop in the first Friday the 13th, with characterization limited to McCoy apparently not believing in showers. But both films are incredibly slow paced and suffer from a crippling lack of monster action. It's almost an hour before we see the thing and from then on it only appears in a few short sequences. It never moves, either, it will just sort of rise up from the water and swing its claws around instead of rampaging or swimming after our heroes. Even at the end, it just seems held in place - you just need to swim out of its claw range and you'll be safe.
It also has way too many characters. There are about a dozen, when there should only be eight tops. You know exactly which two will survive, so the rest are just a bunch of "not if but when" would-be deaths. And screenwriter Lewis Abernathy oddly decides to stick the obvious survivors at the center of the film's centerpiece action scene, which is weak - we've been waiting this long for something to happen, something finally does and we know that they'll be OK. At least if it were the McCoy and Nia Peeples characters (the "B" heroes of sorts), there might be a chance of them not making it out alive.
The only interesting character is Miguel Ferrer, who also gets the film's best death (not even at the hands of the monster!). He's slightly less villainous than most Ferrer characters, and his mistakes are more the result of panic than intentional dickishness. Ferrer is one of those guys that can take a nothing role and make it interesting, so the fact that he gets one of the few interesting roles anyway is one of the film's few strong points. McCoy, on the other hand, is someone I usually like but he's pretty annoying here, playing a smarmy comic relief type who seemingly can't say anything without making a lame joke and smiling. I cheered when he got ripped in half.
And since I always give the guy shit, I guess I should mention that Harry Manfredini's score is actually somewhat decent. It still has that Manfredini-ness to it, but it's the rare film where he's actually trying to come up with something that doesn't sound exactly like his Friday the 13th score. Also, the monster is pretty sweet looking, even if he doesn't do a hell of a lot. It's sort of like a crab mixed with Zorak from Space Ghost, and it seems to be a full sized model instead of some composite deal (there are some god-awful composites during the climax though, and an obvious fake sky to boot). The movie might suck, but at least its main draw isn't a complete letdown.
Back to the Leviathan thing though - did anyone get sued over this? I mean, yeah, we've always had double films (Deep Impact/Armageddon, Volcano/Dante's Peak, etc.), but they're usually different enough for it to be easy to accept as coincidence; i.e. Deep Impact being more of a drama and Armageddon being, well, awesome. But these two films are SO similar in so many ways (I'd bet there's even more similarities, but I'm blanking on everything in Leviathan that's not in my review), I have to believe that there were some shenanigans involved in the development process. It doesn't help that both films were outdone (financially, creatively, and critically) by The Abyss, which was ALSO about underwater blue collar folks unearthing some sort of otherworldly being. Except that one didn't try to kill them, it just wanted them to stop fucking around with nukes and war.
One nice thing I can say is that the Netflix transfer was quite good, especially in colorful shots. The streaming limitations make the water shots look abysmal, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. I will never be convinced that this stuff looks as good as Blu-ray (or even standard def DVDs), but it's much better than how it looked when they first started offering it. Maybe by 2020 or so it can match its physical media counterpart. I'll still prefer discs though. Chapter search, bonus features, the ability to take the disc out and smash it if the movie sucks... these things are just too important to me to forgo simply for the "on demand"ness of it all.
What say you?